It is ironic that the most business-savvy candidate in the 2016 presidential race also appears to be the least adept at branding. Donald J. Trump, 69, an American real estate tycoon, television host, politician and author, has a long history of successfully marketing casinos, resorts and even clothing lines that bear his name, yet, in the political arena, his personal branding efforts seem unfocused and unpredictable.
With an estimated net worth of $4 billion, you would think that Trump might have an experienced content creation team behind him that would keep his message on point and his brand intact. Instead, at every turn, he seems to lose his footing and end up with his foot in his mouth.
Whether it’s calling Mexican immigrants “rapists,” Rosie O’Donnell “a trainwreck” and a “loser,” GOP strategist Frank Luntz “a low-class slob,” or stating that “there was blood coming out of (Fox News anchor Megyn Kelly’s) eyes, blood coming out of her wherever” during a GOP debate, Trump has a penchant for saying the first thing that comes to his mind.
Yet, surprisingly, despite his unfiltered political discourse, Trump is currently leading in the GOP polls. Which begs the question: Do people respond to negative content or is Trump the only candidate whose message, regardless of content, is getting across?
There is no clear answer yet. The republican primaries are still months away and the pendulum could swing in favor of any of the candidates as time goes on. However, Trump’s confrontational and abrasive style appears to have struck a chord with voters.
In my non-partisan opinion, though, potential voters are not responding necessarily to the content of Trump’s campaign but are simply reveling in its entertainment value, something that in the long run won’t translate into ongoing support. CNN has also wondered if Trump’s campaign can “thrive on his bombastic personality alone,” without an actual political infrastructure that encompasses “an advertising strategy, intricate polling data, get-out-the-vote operations and rapid-response war rooms staffed by political veterans.”
When it comes to politics, going off brand can provide excitement and diversion, but when it comes to selling yourself as a viable candidate for the presidency, irreverence will only get you so far. In the democratic field, Hillary Clinton has maintained her lead in the polls by managing a cohesive and coherent brand, something that will likely pay off in the primaries.
So far though, Trump has failed to imbue his campaign with any substantial content other than sensationalist headlines that have little long-term value, and will probably lead to a backlash from moderate conservatives.
So moving forward, how can he salvage his campaign and change the narrative?
It seems to me that Trump, like any brand, needs an effective content creation team that can highlight issues that are both important to him and the voters. In order to stay on message, he shouldn’t improvise or let his ego lead him astray. This is, after all, a presidential campaign and, regardless of politics, no candidate has ever won without at least a semi-coherent platform.
Negative content, in politics as in life, will inevitably come back and bite you. Yesterday, I happened to catch a few minutes of a Saturday Night Live episode that Trump hosted. What was refreshing was to see Trump being in on the joke, rather than being the butt of it. His larger-than-life personality has gotten him this far. It would be unfortunate if his effort went off the rails simply because he let the caricature become the story instead of letting his character define his brand.
Let us know what you think of the 2016 Campaign @Content_Boost.
Mark A. Lugris originally wanted to be a photographer and was even accepted into UConn’s Fine Arts program, but after realizing that writing was where his heart lay, he packed up his Pentax and opted to major in English and Creative Writing. A life-long pop culture junkie, Mark is quick to quote everything from “Seinfeld” to “The Sopranos.” He also has a fascination with mid-century design, which he explores in his blog. After newspaper stints in Connecticut and Massachusetts, Mark headed overseas, where he lived in Spain and Switzerland for 14 years. Honing his writing skills at PopGuide, a travel and lifestyle magazine in English and German he founded, and as a PR/Communications Manager at Swarovski, Mark returned stateside after realizing he could no longer live without New Haven-style pizza. Follow him @Mark_Lugris